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Green Councillors oppose government plans to fast track fracking

Green and independent councillors from across the West of England signed a response to the government’s twin consultations on fracking and fracking exploration at a demo in Bristol on Tuesday 9 October, urging the government to back down from its plan to make controversial fracking developments harder to challenge under planning law.

The government proposal is to classify fracking as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), which would mean developments only need permission from a government-appointed planning inspector to go ahead, regardless of the views of local communities. Meanwhile, fracking exploration would be allowed under ‘permitted development’, with no planning process at all.

The letter states that the government’s proposals amount to “an unacceptable abuse of the planning process” designed simply in order to over-ride local opposition to fracking. Councillors and activists from 'Grandparents for a safe earth' gathered at 2pm on the 9th October at College Green in Bristol to demonstrate and sign the letter.

The letter (full text here) also notes that:

-          The government’s change would mean that fracking exploration had the same level of planning control as a small domestic building extension, which would make it far more difficult for local communities to oppose and inevitably open the door to significant expansion of fracking

-          There is still little knowledge of what impact fracking has on water supplies, ground pollution or geological integrity (for example it may cause earthquakes)

-          Parliament's Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has urged these plans to be dropped, calling the proposals ‘hugely harmful’

-          Government surveys suggest that just 18% of the population supports fracking and even a majority of conservative councillors (65%) oppose the government’s plans

-          Research suggests fracking expansion would need to be on a huge scale to impact on energy supplies - to replace 50% of gas imports would require one new well to be drilled every day for the next fifteen years

Councillor Eleanor Combley, leader of the Green group on Bristol City Council, said:

“It’s outrageous the government is trying to circumvent planning law to so they can push fracking expansion on communities, giving fracking exploration the same level of planning control as a garden shed and taking the decision over fracking projects away from locally accountable elected representatives.

“We know that people in Britain do not want fracking. We know that fracking can be a source of air and water pollution harmful to human health. We know that to have a chance of reducing the impact of climate change we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Yet in the face of all this evidence, our national government is hell bent on fracking anyway, and removing any safeguards which might allow people to protect their local area. That’s why Green and Independent councillors from across the West of England have come together to oppose this change, and protect people’s right to object to fracking.

“Instead of finding ways to push fracking on communities that don’t want it the government should support renewable energy – in the UK we have the expertise and potential for a green energy revolution which could provide up to a million jobs and clean, cheap energy for the whole country.”

Background info:

-          The government’s consultations close on 25 October and can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/permitted-development-for-shale-gas-exploration and https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/inclusion-of-shale-gas-production-projects-in-the-nationally-significant-infrastructure-project-nsip-regime

-          Fracking has been banned in every part of the UK except England. In addition, Germany, France, Ireland have all imposed moratoriums. The UK is one of the last remaining countries in Europe where oil companies are drilling and applying to frack (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/feb/26/fracking-the-reality-the-risks-and-what-the-future-holds)

-          Fracking has been associated with health risks including high risk and premature births (https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/study-fracking-industry-wells-associated-with-premature-birth.html) and drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fracking-can-contaminate-drinking-water/) as it involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release gases.

-          A UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on climate change published Monday 8 October suggested the global community has just 12 years to reduce emissions and stave off a temperature increase of 1.5C which would lead to ‘catastrophic’ climate change. Fracking can release large amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere, a gas which according to the IPCC has a global warming potential of 86 times more than CO2 over a 20 year period. (https://thinkprogress.org/more-bad-news-for-fracking-ipcc-warns-methane-traps-much-more-heat-than-we-thought-9c2badf392df/#, IPCC report at http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5_WGI-12Doc2b_FinalDraft_All.pdf)

-          16% of respondents to a 2017 survey by the Business and Energy department supported fracking (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/03/public-support-for-fracking-in-the-uk-at-record-low-official-survey-reveals)

-          A 2015 study suggested that half of all natural gas reserves would need to remain in the ground for the international community to reach the goal of staying below a maximum 2C global average temperature rise (http://www.nature.com/articles/nature14016)

ENDS

Background:

-          The government’s consultations close on 25 October and can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/permitted-development-for-shale-gas-exploration and https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/inclusion-of-shale-gas-production-projects-in-the-nationally-significant-infrastructure-project-nsip-regime

-          Fracking has been banned in every part of the UK except England. In addition, Germany, France, Ireland have all imposed moratoriums. The UK is one of the last remaining countries in Europe where oil companies are drilling and applying to frack (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/feb/26/fracking-the-reality-the-risks-and-what-the-future-holds)

-          Fracking has been associated with health risks including high risk and premature births (https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/study-fracking-industry-wells-associated-with-premature-birth.html) and drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fracking-can-contaminate-drinking-water/) as it involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release gases.

-          A UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on climate change published Monday 8 October suggested the global community has just 12 years to reduce emissions and stave off a temperature increase of 1.5C which would lead to ‘catastrophic’ climate change. Fracking can release large amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere, a gas which according to the IPCC has a global warming potential of 86 times more than CO2 over a 20 year period. (https://thinkprogress.org/more-bad-news-for-fracking-ipcc-warns-methane-traps-much-more-heat-than-we-thought-9c2badf392df/#, IPCC report at http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5_WGI-12Doc2b_FinalDraft_All.pdf)

-          16% of respondents to a 2017 survey by the Business and Energy department supported fracking (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/03/public-support-for-fracking-in-the-uk-at-record-low-official-survey-reveals)

-          A 2015 study suggested that half of all natural gas reserves would need to remain in the ground for the international community to reach the goal of staying below a maximum 2C global average temperature rise (http://www.nature.com/articles/nature14016)

 

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